Merging Film and Media Units with NFDC – Explained, pointwise

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Recently, the Government has decided to merge four publicly-funded film and media units with National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). This is based on the recommendation of the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting constituted Bimal Julka Committee.

The committee was formulated to find ways to improve the quality and efficiency of the four media units: Films Division (FD), National Film Archives of India (NFAI), Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) and Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI). The committee looked into every aspect of each individual unit’s functioning for a  year before submitting the report.

Must read: Cabinet approves merger of four government-run film and media units
What are the findings of the Bimal Julka committee?

-These media units functioned in an exemplary manner and produced tremendous results, but over the last 10 years, they all faced issues due to inefficiency, over-staffing and corruption within each unit.

-The Committee found that only the DFF was devoid of corruption, but it was suffering due to the inefficiency of some employees, casual and permanent.

-NFDC, which pioneered a revolution in cinema, had in the last 10 years not contributed anything of quality and its workforce was causing heavy expense to the exchequer.

-They all together wasted a huge wealth and wasted huge tracts of real estate.

-Film Division hardly makes any documentaries. They have a panel of directors who are paid, but when FD wants to produce a documentary they outsource the director.

-Similarly, CFSI which is meant exclusively for children, receive Rs 10 crore every year. But they made a film that got a U/A certificate from the censor board.

-A couple of years ago the NFAI was allotted Rs 700 crore for the restoration of films. Their mandate is to archive our (film) heritage, but they complained that they were unable to find the right people.

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What are the recommendations of the Bimal Julka committee?

The committee was of the unanimous opinion that all these organisations must be streamlined.

The committee proposed that all the media units should be reconstituted and streamlined as individual verticals overseen by an ‘umbrella’ body to ensure efficiency and synergy.

The government accepted the report, and It was decided that instead of constituting a new body, NFDC, which is a corporation, would be revamped and function as the ‘umbrella’. This is because 1. It has a certain amount of respect across the world, 2. Only a corporation can ensure the success of the new initiative.

Read more: Centre’s push to merge film archive and other film bodies will ill serve their original mandates
What are the advantages of merging film and media units?

1. The merger of Film Media Units under one corporation will lead to convergence of activities and resources and better coordination, thereby ensuring synergy and efficiency in achieving the mandate of each media unit. 2. It will also lead to a reduction in duplication of activities and direct savings to the exchequer. 3. The NFDC is expected to turn around its finances once the merger takes place. 4. The only state that has a central Chalachitra Academy is Kerala, which effectively and efficiently manages all film-related activities under the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy. Such an umbrella academy would help retain the cultural ethos of a nation under a single authority.

What are the challenges associated with merging film and media units?

Legacy of the institutes: The NFAI, FD, DFF, CFSI are institutions with a history. They have been a part of independent India’s nation-building process and have made stellar contributions to producing, disseminating and preserving the labour and creativity of diverse film cultures in the country. If merged, the functions of these institutions will be constrained.

Read more: What is the contribution and importance of these publicly-funded cultural institutions?

Production of art-house cinema: All these years, India’s public-funded cinema bodies have focussed mostly on making of art-house cinema and documentaries that would not find support from the market. This resulted in the production of works that boldly questioned the very systems and processes that enabled their existence. After the merger, this might not be feasible.

Issues with NFDC: The NFDC was set up based on the recommendations of Dr Shivaram Karanth Committee. Four decades since its inception, the NFDC has been on a course of steady decline. The committee failed to study why the NFDC has miserably failed in its assigned mission. Hence, the decision to merge these media units with NFDC will not result in better performance of all the media institutes.

Root cause not addressed: Institutions like the CFSI have been underperforming, it is mostly because they do not get the right kind of leadership.

What should be done to promote India’s film heritage?

Archival activities need to be prioritised, empowering the film archiving body as an independent, less bureaucratically burdened body without over-centralisation.

Vesting them with adequate leadership: India is the only country where bureaucrats run a film festival. For example, The International Film Festival. Hence, vesting the film institutes with professionalism will result in better improvement. For instance, the NFAI is functioning exceedingly well under dedicated leadership.

Set up an autonomous body: The government’s involvement should be limited to a reasonable annual grant and also its representation on the governing body.

Setting up a separate Ministry for Cinema: The government can consider setting up a separate ministry so that it can nurture and promote cinema, not control it. The ministry should not only include these four media institutes but also other institutes such as the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), etc.

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A fine balance between a film industry that defines itself in market terms and a cinema focussed on the politics and aesthetics of art production, should not be disturbed.

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